Friday, February 5, 2016

female athletes

Family Nutrition & Fit Pregnancy with Monica Byrn

Free Webinar

April 20th -- Noon Denver Time

Monica and I will offer a husband and wife perspective on family nutrition and pregnancy.


Contact Me for a slot or to send in your questions in advance.

Free to all and available for download after the fact.

Fit Pregnancy & Childbirth


Fit pregnancy and childbirth are the topics for this week.  The letter is likely to end up fairly long but it should make an interesting change from politics and the economy!

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Couple of announcements before we kick off.

Tucson -- we have ten slots left for our Spring Camp in Tucson.  Dates are March 29th to April 5th.  Six days of training, $2,350 includes everything but your airfares.  The camp is appropriate for sub-13 hour IMers (and sub-6 hours Half IMers).  For more info drop me a line.

Over on Endurance Corner Radio you will find three new podcasts -- Greg Bennett; Going Fast in Kona; and Chris Baldwin.  If you want then you can subscribe to the podcasts through iTunes -- we are listed under Endurance Corner Radio.  Jonas Colting will be live on Monday!

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Fit Pregnancy

On October 14th, Monica gave birth to our daughter Alexandra (she's the one in the photo above).  Seeing as I'm the writer in the family, I will share some observations across the last ten months.
We have all heard stories about massive weight gain during pregnancy.  I've heard stories of women gaining up to 80 pounds across their pregnancies.  Listening to these tales, many women must wonder if large amounts of baby weight are the norm.  Do I have to become huge, to have a healthy baby?  Monica's experience might be relevant to you.
Before we start with the pregnancy, I want to mention a little bit about the year before the pregnancy.  When you look at the athletes racing in Kona, or ITU Worlds, you will see that most participants are optimized for performance, rather than personal health.  In fact, I'd guess that many very fast elite athletes (male and female) would have trouble conceiving when they are peak athletic condition.  
So my first recommendation for athletes seeking to conceive is to get a medical check-up and shift the basis of your athletics from performance, to health.  That is something that Monica and I did across last winter.  Although I continued to ride my bike, my overall training stress was low enough that I had sufficient energy to devote to fatherly duties...
Monica didn't ride and focused her training on swimming, running and yoga.  She was in excellent health and physical condition.  While we were trying to conceive, she kept both the volume, and intensity, of her program.  She didn't do much fast running but she would swim fast three times per week.
Monica's main worries prior to getting pregnant: 
  • I will lose my body
  • I will lose fitness
  • I won't be able to do anything
  • I will get slow and never recover
I can relate to those concerns -- I share many of them every October and November!
The good news is you can maintain your body, your health and, most surprisingly, your fitness.  Here's how she did it.
No Zeros -- Monica did some form of physical activity every single day, for her entire pregnancy - even the day her water broke.  This performance was a lot better than Dad's record!
While our medical advice was not to commence a fitness program when you get pregnant, all our doctors said that it was OK to maintain a fitness program through pregnancy.  Monica's doc also noted that there isn't much practical knowledge about pregnancy and the endurance athlete.  
The warnings boiled down to:
  • Don't let your body overheat;
  • Stay well hydrated;
  • Don't get out of breath (steady effort, or lower); and
  • Listen to your body.
Monica read the blogs of athletic moms like Bree Wee and Paula Radcliffe -- seeking to learn from their experience.  She also consulted with coaches of elite female triathletes to learn from their experience.  Something that came out of that research is the risk of stress fractures that result when moms come back too quickly.  We received a lot of warnings about late term and postpartum running.
While most people talk about trimesters, looking from the outside, I noticed shifts closer to ten week blocks within M's 40-week pregnancy.
First ten weeks -- hormonal changes, mainly impacted mood and appetite.  Monica was lucky in that her cravings were fresh fruit (rather than sugar/starch) related.
Second ten weeks -- feeling much better, moderated volume and intensity with attitude of baby-comes-first.
Third ten weeks -- pregnancy starts to show, pubic bone discomfort at 26 weeks, stopped running at 30 weeks, shifted to the elliptical trainer 2x per week.
Final ten weeks -- months of high frequency swimming left her very economical in the water, some high volume swim weeks, hiking started around 34 weeks, elliptical reduced to 1x per week.
Here's a great stat... total swim distance across the pregnancy... 908,600 meters.   Average weekly volume was 14 hours and 45 minutes (includes yoga & cross training but not mellow walks with me).  That average volume was down from 19-23 hours per week before conception.
The most surprising thing for me was that across her third trimester, Monica had returned to a level of aerobic swim economy that was on-par with where she was preconception.
To sum up Monica's focus:
  • Pre-pregnancy -- health, not race fitness
  • During pregnancy -- baby comes first, no zeros

The biggest mental challenges Monica faced were:

  • not stopping; 
  • coping with weight gain; 
  • coping with her body changing; and
  • coping with peer group response.

There will be days where you feel like everyone wants you to get huge, slow down and be uncomfortable.  Those feelings are normal and it helps to know that all pregnant ladies are dealing with them.

If she had to give you one piece of advice with your pregnancy then she would encourage you to remain active, moderately, every day.  Also remember that if you plan on breast feeding you'll burn off your baby weight safely and gradually.
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The birth experience was intense and nothing like either of us expected.  We went to "baby school" this summer but nothing can prepare you for the real thing.  

All you experienced moms out there... you certainly downplayed the extreme nature of childbirth!

6:45pm Sunday (Zero Hour) -- water breaks, contractions start shortly thereafter

+6 hrs -- at the hospital, told cervix is 1-2 cm dilated
+15 hrs -- Monica's OB/Gyn gives an exam and notes that cervix is 1 cm dilated -- previous exam was incorrect; drug inserted to help cervix along
+18 hrs -- full blown labour gets going, strong contractions happening up to 2:30 min apart
+23 hrs -- another exam; disappointing news; uterus is ahead of cervix; only 2cm dilated; facing another 12 hrs of labour M opts for epidural
+24 hrs -- epidural kicks in with three hours of pain relief and relative comfort
+29 hrs -- pain relief gone; M feeling pretty strung out and ragged; doctor recommends sleeping pill to enable M to sleep; doesn't force it but strongly recommends
+30 hrs -- M waives off sleeping pill; gets anaesthetist to refresh the epidural;
+31 hrs -- another three hours of pain relief; a couple of short naps; makes a huge difference
+34 hrs -- pain relief wanes; good news that M is 8.5 cm dilated (one needs to get to 10 cm) 
+35 hrs -- pretty extreme pain through transition; M starts pushing; has to pause because she nearly pushes the baby out before the doctor can get to the room
+35:30 hrs -- childbirth!

Things that surprised us:

The extreme amounts of pain -- likely magnified by duration of labour and lack of sleep.   Picture the most despair your have ever seen in an athlete... this didn't even come close!  I'm guessing that you'd only see close having to watch young people die or see people broken via torture.  It's a good thing that babies are so cute!

The main thing that surprised me (M didn't see) was the large amount of blood that came out after the birth -- between the placenta and the blood, there was a bucket full of post-baby-bits. Didn't freak me out but it certainly got my attention.

Tips for the guys:

Being in the room, and supportive, provides a HUGE opportunity to strengthen your marriage. In life, we only get a few opportunities to demonstrate character. Child-birth is a total-body experience for your wife, being able to share that can create a deep bond. She will always remember if you were there for her.

Besides, after you watch, you'll spend the rest of your life grateful that your wife is handling the birthing part of the relationship. Blew my mind!

Back next week,
gordo

Thoughts for female athletes


This week I will share some observations that are relevant to female athletes. Much (most?) of the exercise physiology chatter that we hear is geared towards male athletes. In particular, large/strong/speedy male athletes. You can be sure that nobody is posting their worst workout data in their blogs! :-)

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Before we get into this week's letter an announcement:

Colorado Altitude Camp -- June 27th to July 5th
Seven Days of bike-focused training in the Rockies. Start/Finish in Boulder, CO. ~550 miles of cycling, plus run, plus swim. Appropriate for sub-10 hr IMers.

Five athlete slots -- one coach (me).

Highlights -- Brainard Lake (10K); Trailridge Road (11K); Steamboat Springs, Vail, Vail Pass, Loveland Pass, Berthoud Pass, Winter Park, Snow Mountain Ranch Swimming Pool (>9K!), Mt Evans (14K).

$2100 per person includes everything but transport to/from Boulder. Contact me with your athletic CV for more info. Discounts available for sub-8:50 IMers and/or athletes that swim faster than me.

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Below is a chart that we prepared to illustrate a typical profile for a fit amateur female athlete. The chart is a mixture from a few different ladies and shows a 'normal' profile. If you would like then click on it to see a large image.

The chart above shows an interesting paradox for many female athletes. The point at which many women oxidize the greatest amount of fat (per minute) tends to feel "too easy". A recent visitor commented that she'd have to "pedal with one leg to go that slow".

Interestingly, fit female athletes have the capacity to do nearly 100% of their training at an intensity that shuts down most of their fat burning. If you have body composition goals -- you want to burn fat, not calories.

I am not talking world class female athletes -- I am likely talking about YOU. By "fit" I mean a woman that has been training for a few years, is active and can get through a triathlon of any distance. In other words, fit relative to the general population -- not the people winning at World Champs.

How many women (and men) train "hard" and never seem to be able to lose weight. While it is tempting to blame our genetics... the fault may lie in our approach.

I don't know about you but I started training to lose weight -- period. Weight loss was my ONLY goal. I have never coached an athlete (male or female) that didn't share this desire, at some level.

In my experience, a moderate approach to training intensity yields a much deeper satisfaction from your athletes. Why? Here are the benefits:

***Faster weight loss
***Lower cravings
***Reduced incidence of injury & illness
***Way less physically painful (your ego may take a knock from time-to-time)
***Improved metabolic rate, less risk of stress fractures and bone density loss (from persistent energy deficits)

The "go hard" approach will work for some -- there are well-known training squads that thrive on energy deficits and extreme work ethic. What I am suggesting is for you to make an informed choice based on the life you want to live.

Remember that, as human beings, we are not great at considering long term costs/liabilities. As well, our media doesn't cover the shattered tibias, twisted psyches and torched metabolisms of our athletic heroes of yesteryear -- they run cover photos of the lithe bodies of today.

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So, for the ladies out there that may be coping with frustration, or a personal plateau. Here are some simple tips to maximize both your performance and your athletic satisfaction.

What to do?
***first goal is 3 sessions per sport, per week // if you can do that for 12 weeks then...
***add an additional session per sport, per week // combo sessions count
***keep the program "too easy" for the first few years // training should always be an emotional release -- if is becomes a source of stress then back-off immediately, and learn. Remember why you chose to be active.

What counts?
***Everything counts! 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes... whatever. For running... walk, hike, jog, run -- it all counts! The most important thing is to do something, anything. Aim for about an hour per day.

How hard?
***90% of your training should be done in the zone that maximizes your fat burning. If you are starting out then this will likely occur with FLAT cycling and fast WALKING. If you are puffing then SLOW DOWN, you have likely shut down your fat burning.
***For the other 10% of your training keep your heart rate under "180-AGE" -- if you want to go harder than this then fine -- I don't think that it is a big deal. What matters is staying healthy, looking good and being active.
***For $240, you can get a Fuel Test in a lab (like ours) but this is not essential. The above guidelines are "close enough" for the early years (not weeks!) of your program.
***Your mind/ego will try to convince you that you are somehow "different" -- however -- heart rate outliers are pretty rare.

What to eat?
***Forget about sports nutrition until you are training over two hours in a single session.
***Eat normally with two modifications -- no refined starch/sugar after 4pm and lean protein with every single meal (and at least 5x per day).
***Once you have the above sorted for a few months (not weeks) -- increase the amount of "real food" you eat. Real Food = food that comes without an ingredient list on the side. Read labels -- sugar is everywhere in packaged foods.
***Make incremental changes, gradually.

In all areas, focus on positive choices that support your long term goals -- denial strategies aren't effective.

When it all gets too much -- take a break and try to keep things in perspective. As my home page says... do not take life so seriously, no one will make it out alive.

We all make mistakes -- my failures are signs that I have been trying too hard. The main thing is staying in the game.

Good luck!

g